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Baylor Adopts 'Play For Lum' Motto After Beloved Coach Loss

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(Photo by Baylor Athletics)

For this year’s Baylor University softball squad, playing with grit and fighting for every win stands for so much more than an appearance at the Women’s College World Series in June.

In 2007, longtime Baylor softball assistant coach Mark Lumley was first diagnosed with prostate cancer. After battling cancer multiple times, Lumley passed away in December.

His bravery and tenacity have become the driving forces behind everything that each individual on Baylor’s roster does both on and off the field this season.

For Gia Rodoni, when she was given the opportunity to return to Waco for a final season, the choice was clear—she would absolutely return. Out of the utmost respect for her coaching staff and the fire instilled in her by coach Lumley, she knew she was not finished playing the game she loves.

“The fight on this team comes from him 100%,” Rodoni, a sixth-year senior, said. “Lum has always been a fighter and so that adds a little spark to our fire.”

The team first found out about their former coach’s final bout with cancer while on a bus ride to College Station for the start of the 2018 NCAA Regionals.

“He didn’t travel with us down there, and I think that’s when it hit me hard,” Rodoni said. “That was a punch in the stomach.”

On the morning of December 27, 2020, Rodoni and her teammates received a text from head coach Glenn Moore letting them know that Lumley had passed away.

“It definitely still gets me emotional,” said Rodoni. “We still miss him, but we know he’s in a better place now. He’s not hurting anymore.

“We’re happy that he exceeded how long he was supposed to live, and that he and his wife were able to spend another anniversary together, and that he was able to spend Christmas with his family.”

Looking ahead, Softball America's No. 23 team in the most recent Top 25 ranking will continue to embrace the obstacles that the 2021 season has presented. Rodoni, who once again leads Baylor's pitching staff, will keep leaning on her experience, as well as her love for her former coach, to lead the charge for the Bears on their quest to get back to Oklahoma City this season.

“We wish more than anything that (Lumley) could be out there with us,” Rodoni said, “but I know that he wouldn’t want us to change a thing. I know that he’d want us to go out there and play our hearts out.”

In honor of their former coach, the team has adopted the motto “Play for Lum” this season. They have pledged to take the field and play each day for the love of the game, just like he would have wanted them to.

“We had a slow start, but we know it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Rodoni said. “Our ultimate goal is to make it to the Women’s College World Series.”

Once her collegiate career is over, Rodoni wishes not to be remembered for all the accolades she earned, but instead for her expression of the tenets that Lumley taught her.

“I like to think that throughout my injuries in college I’ve stayed strong and been a warrior,” Rodoni said. “I want to be remembered, like him, as a fighter and as someone who never gave in to the obstacles or negative talk, someone who came out on top at the end.”

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